Enter the Body

Enter the Body cover
Enter the Body by Joy McCullough

By Joy McCullough
Dutton, 2023
336 pages

Age 14 and older

Four of Shakespeare’s young female characters—Lavinia, Cordelia, Ophelia, and Juliet—have died countless times on stage and will do so countless more, because that is how their stories were written. Until now. Gathered together in “The Trap Room,” the space beneath the stage, they begin to share the unscripted parts of their lives. In differing verse narrative styles, Juliet, Ophelia, and Cordelia each reveal that she is so much more than a character in service to a plot. They are young women who live and dream and laugh and ache, who long for lost mothers, and lost opportunity, and lost love. Soon they begin to converse, an entertaining exchange in 21st-century young adult colloquial voices in which they poke and prod and critique, challenging one another to shape their stories into something new. None of them is initially so bold as to imagine a wholly different outcome for herself, but when Cordelia, the most cynical, eye-rolling among them, figures out why silent Lavinia has not spoken—her tongue cut out and hands cut off so she could not name her rapist—she understands that speaking up when others can’t is necessary, and imagining boldly is an act that lifts them all. This fiercely imaginative, astonishingly original and arresting work is a novel that can also be read as a play. Just as it challenges its characters, it challenges readers to think critically about these young women’s narrow existence on the stage, and the expansive possibilities of their lives. ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center